Identity theft is the fastest growing type of crime – each year an estimated 500,000 people become victims of this type of fraud. Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s identifying information. This can include name, address, date of birth, social security number or mother’s maiden name. With this information, a criminal can commit numerous forms of fraud both to you and to others while using your identity. The California law (PC 530.5) that made identity theft a crime was enacted in 1998.
Common Methods of Identity Theft
Stealing a wallet has always been the established way to steal someone’s identity. However, other methods are becoming very popular:
How You Can Prevent Being a Victim
While you cannot completely prevent identity theft, you can significantly reduce your risk of fraud by following some guidelines. The most important one is to check your credit report at least once a year. If you do become a victim of identity theft, you can catch it early by checking your credit report regularly. Other steps you should consider:
If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
Act quickly after learning you are a victim of identity theft. This can prevent further use of your credit identity. Keep a log of the date, time and substance of all in-person and telephone conversations related to the theft. File a police report. Keep the report number and obtain a copy of the report. You may need both to verify the crime to creditors.
Credit Bureaus: Ask that your file be flagged with a fraud alert and add a victim’s consumer statement to your report. Ask the credit bureaus for the names of any credit grantors where fraudulent accounts have been opened. Ask that the related inquiries be removed due to fraudulent access. Ask the credit bureaus to notify anyone that has received your credit report in the last six months and alert them to any disputed or fraudulent information. They are required to remove the fraudulent accounts from your credit report when you supply them with your police report (1785.16(k) Civil).Creditors: Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been fraudulently used. You may need to fill out a fraud affidavit.
Checks: If your checks have been stolen or your bank information used fraudulently, report it to the bank. Put a stop on the checks in question, have the bank close your accounts and obtain new ones. Have the bank set up a password for the new accounts.
Social Security Number: Call SSI and report the fraudulent use. As a last resort, have your number changed (http://www.ssa.gov or 800-772-1213).
Drivers License: If someone uses your driver’s license to write a fraudulent check, you may need to change your number. Contact the DMV (www.dmv.ca.gov) and put an alert on your number. You may need to go to your local office and file a complaint form so an investigation can be authorized.
Postal Fraud or Change of Address: One method of identity theft involves sending your mail to another address. This allows the thief to intercept you personal information as it arrives in the mail. If this occurs, contact your local Postmaster. Find out where your mail is going and notify the Postmaster of the related office (http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/).
Other Federal Agencies to Contact:
While this information is intended to aid victims of identity theft, the Pacifica Police Department does not accept any cost or liability associated with its use.